While defeating both South Korea and Japan (3rd and 1st highest FIFA ranked countries in Asia, respectively) was no easy task, it wasn’t a ground-breaking achievement either. Mexico understood how to play both games, and were able to assert themselves when it mattered most, and one could say they ended up winning both matches rather easily, as they were never truly tested, at least not in the way they were last month when matching up with Netherlands and Algeria.
Tata Martino’s squad came into last Saturday’s match in the 11th overall FIFA world ranking, behind the world’s obvious best teams, but surprisingly in front of countries such as Italy, Germany, and one of their recent victims, the Netherlands, who I still believe would have done a better job had their friendly match been an official one. And I also can’t confirm that Mexico is indeed rightfully ahead of neither the Italians or the Germans who have maintained a certain quality and level of football throughout the years that Mexico have not been able to show even once in a World Cup.
It’s no secret that winning a friendly match doesn’t involve the same level of intensity of difficulty than winning an official one does, such as a World Cup match. The fact that some of the European countries who have proven their worth time and time again continue to square off in the world’s toughest football zones (Europe and South America), and are always in the title conversation, have somehow taken a backseat to Mexico is simply beyond me.
Aquí tenéis el TOP-80 del próximo Ranking FIFA que será publicado el 26 de noviembre. pic.twitter.com/odkRj6ltC0— MisterChip (Alexis) (@2010MisterChip) November 19, 2020
Yesterday, Spanish journalist Alexis Martín-Tamayo revealed the updated top 80 FIFA world rankings which are set to be released on November 26. Thanks to their two friendly match victories, Mexico have jumped two spots and will now be ranked 9th in the world. That’s right, NINTH. While it is indeed great news that the Mexican NT is being noticed and is showing top-quality form, I also am a firm believer of truly earning those kinds of merits.
The two teams that Mexico moved ahead of are Colombia and Croatia. On the one hand, Colombia faced a fellow top-10 team in Uruguay which they lost on Friday by 3-0, followed by an ugly 6-1 thrashing to the hands of Ecuador on Tuesday. Both matches were 2022 WC CONMEBOL Qualifiers. The Croatians, on the other hand, played three matches. The first was a friendly vs. a feisty Turkey NT, where the match ended 3-3. Their two ensuing matches were part of the UEFA Nations League A schedule, where they fell to both Sweden and Portugal by a one goal difference.
Now, if you ask me, those are much tougher matchups than facing South Korea and Japan in friendly, non-pressure games. And while I mean no disrespect in Mexico’s victories, it’s not the same when games mean something. I can tell you it isn’t enough for a country to move past another who has played much tougher matches in an actual competition. And let’s not forget, Mexico still remains above Italy (who won all three of its matches), Germany, and the Netherlands.
Mexico have discovered a great attacking trio in Jiménez, Corona, and Lozano, but have yet to prove themselves on the biggest of stages. The midfield looks of quality with the arrival of Romo and Pineda. However, the defense continues to concern me in ways it hasn’t before. The inability of Moreno, Salcedo, Gallardo, and company to stick with their man in a simple cross and instead leave rivals wide-open twice in the same game, when they showed the same weakness in their two friendlies just a month prior really bothers me. This extremely weak defense will stand no chance when facing the stronger, offensively sound countries. If there’s any positive on that side of the pitch, it’s that at least Memo Ochoa still stands between the three posts.
Unproven players on the highest of stages and an extremley weak defense can in no way be deserving of a 9th world-ranked overall squad. In no way am I trying to say they can’t one day achieve that, or maybe they already have, but they simply cannot be thrown into that kind of mix when they haven’t even gotten past the World Cup Round of 16 over the past three decades. FIFA Rankings can say all they want, and while I do believe Mexico are a top-20, possibly top-15 country, they are in no way, shape, or form a top-10 squad, especially when placed ahead of Italy, Germany, and Netherlands. Until they prove it on bigger stages than friendly matches, there simply isn’t any truth or coherence to it.